Johnny Lombardi (1915-2002)
Member of CAB Hall of Fame
Lombardi, Johnny (1915-2002)
In his teens he formed a band, in his 20s he played lead trumpet for the Benny Palmer Orchestra, but his music career was interrupted by the Second World War during which he served in Europe. Back home in 1946, he started a corner grocery store in downtown Toronto. A grocery store needs promotion and Johnny Lombardi started a show of Italian music on CHUM and later CKFH, bringing in his own advertisers.
The show became popular and the grocery store flourished but it wasn't enough for this man of great energy. He also became an impresario and concert promoter and, in 1966, received a licence for his own ethnic station, CHIN Radio, which developed to broadcast in more than 30 languages.
Radio promotion had made Johnny's grocery store successful. To promote the radio station, CHIN and the Lombardi family have every year since 1966 hosted what's billed as the world's largest free picnic over the Canada Day weekend, in recent years attended by approximately 250,000 people.
In 1967 he opened CHIN-FM, which operated from the same studios as CHIN-AM. In 2001, CHIN Radio was licensed to open a multicultural station in Ottawa/Hull.
Along the way, among other honours, Johnny became a Member of the Order of Canada, Member of the Order of Ontario, Cavaliere Ufficiale (Official Knight of the Italian Republic), received the Toronto Civic Award of Merit and was named Broadcaster of the Year, received the Ted Rogers Sr./Velma Rogers Graham Award from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, received the Howard Caine Memorial Award for public service in broadcasting, and was given the Paul Mulvihill Heart Award by the Broadcast Executives Society. In 1991, on Johnny's 81st birthday, Toronto officially named an area of College Street where he was born and where CHIN Radio is located, Johnny Lombardi Way. CHIN was named multicultural station of the year by the Ontario Association of Broadcasters for three consecutive years from 1999-2001.
Well into his 80s, Johnny was still active at the radio station, was still a concert promoter and impresario, hosted the international segments of the annual Toronto Hospital for Sick Kids telethon, hosted a two-hour Sunday show from CHIN - Festival Italiano Di JOHNNY LOMBARDI, broadcast on CHUM's CityTv Toronto - and sat on the boards of several charitable and community organizations.
Johnny Lombardi died after a short illness on March 20, 2002. He was 86.
Son Lenny became CHIN president and daughters Theresa and Donina vice-presidents.
Joe Mulvihill, former General Manager of Integrated Media Sales, was appointed Executive Vice President and COO of CHIN Radio/TV international.
Johnny Lombardi was posthumously inducted into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2002.
Written by Jerry Fairbridge - January, 2002